The World Baseball Classic is set to start this week (schedule here). It's been a minute since the last one, 2017, as the scheduled 2021 WBC was pushed back due to the pandemic. As such, there seems to be more excitement for this one. Japan is one of the favorites -- check out the power rankings -- and my predicted champion. They have plenty of big names, but the top name would be Shohei Ohtani.
In exhibition play, Ohtani showed he's already in midseason form, too, crushing two homers against the Hanshin Tigers.
The Sho has already started.— MLB (@MLB) March 6, 2023
Shohei Ohtani rips TWO home runs in #WorldBaseballClassic exhibition action. pic.twitter.com/fkS6KWtyZA
That's pretty fun because we got two totally different homers. In the first, he collapsed down to one knee in protection mode and showed he's still strong enough to hit a homer. In the second, well, that's one of those no-doubters we've grown accustomed to seeing.
Ohtani is set to be a hitter and pitcher for Japan. There's even a special roster spot for him. Every other player is listed as a pitcher, catcher, infielder or outfielder while he gets a nice "two way" section all to himself.
The 28-year-old Ohtani is entering a huge year. He'll play for Japan in the WBC before re-joining the Angels for his final year under contract. He could potentially sign a record-breaking extension, get traded or hit free agency in what is sure to be quite the bonanza.
Ohtani won AL MVP in 2021, pitching like a quality No. 2 starter while hitting 46 bombs with eight triples, 26 stolen bases, 100 RBI and 103 runs. Last year, he finished second in MVP voting to a dude who hit 60-plus homers. Ohtani hit .273/.356/.519 (145 OPS+) with 30 doubles, six triples, 34 home runs, 95 RBI, 90 runs, 11 steals and he also pitched like an ace, finishing fourth in Cy Young voting.
There are other two-way players, but there's no one like Ohtani. With the WBC kicking off this week, we'll get to see him in "real" game action sooner than usual.